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Why Every CEO Should Spend a Day in Customer Service

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

Business people with packages and umbrellas in the rain.

How many times has this happened to you as a customer service professional? You receive a message from the CEO of your company wanting to speak to you about a customer who has contacted him. I’ll bet the first thing that races through your mind isn't, “Yet another satisfied customer calling the boss to thank him for our great service!” More likely there is a knot in your stomach and an impulsive urge to update your resume.

Good customer service is expected. Customers rarely deliver praise for this, and it is unlikely to differentiate you from your competition. Excellent customer service is a competitive advantage and will create loyal customers. Bad customer service is simply not tolerated. It creates customer churn and a loss of revenue and profit. Bad customer service can sink your company. CEOs need to get ahead of bad customer service rather than learning about it when a customer is so frustrated, they feel the need to reach out to the CEO for help. Consider yourself lucky that they did communicate their frustration since many customers will walk away from a company and never tell them. The CEO needs to be at the front of the customer service process, not at the end.

“Excellent customer service is a competitive advantage and will create loyal customers.”

When I was 20 years old I spent a summer as an inspector on a production line that printed membrane keyboards. At the head of the production line was a filbar screen printing press and an operator who would silkscreen keyboards onto Mylar and then place them on a conveyor belt traveling through a 50-foot-long drying oven. I was positioned at the end of the conveyor belt removing the dried keyboards and inspecting them for “pinholes”. Pinholes were created by contaminants on the screen (dust particles, etc.) that prevented the ink from adhering to the Mylar. When I identified a pinhole, the corrective action was for me to signal the press operator to stop production and wipe the filbar press screen clean to remove the contaminant. Keyboards with pinholes were scrapped. By the time I identified the first keyboard with a pinhole, there were at least 25 more going through the drying oven with a pinhole in the exact same spot. All 26 keyboards were scrapped. On the second day of doing this job, my suggestion was to place the inspector at the front of the production line and inspect each keyboard as it came off the filbar press. Making this change reduced scrap to 1 keyboard rather than 26 keyboards for each screen contaminant that created a pinhole.

The point of my story is to illustrate the need for the CEO to be engaged with what is happening at the front of their business, the customer-facing part, primarily customer service. Engaging in customer service can provide great insight into what your customers like and do not like about your company. If the CEO is only involved at the end of the customer service process and learns how frustrated a customer is when they decide to escalate their issue to him, imagine how many other customers simply walk away out of total frustration rather than escalate their issue. It is much more cost effective to cultivate new business from within your current customer base than to find new customers to replace the ones you lose. Happy and satisfied customers become loyal ones who stay longer, buy more, and recommend your company to others.

Voice of the customer surveys are a great way to learn what your customers think about your company. Before you start surveying customers, survey your customer service team first! The CEO should spend time listening to what they have to say. Many of their opinions reflect what customers are telling them every day. If you sense a level of frustration with this team, it is likely that your customers are frustrated as well. Happy customers and happy customer service teams typically go hand in hand. In addition to engaging with your customer service team, being on the line with one of your customer service agents as they are answering customer calls can be a valuable learning experience. There is no better way to know what your customers are saying than to listen to them! You could even arrange for the customer service agent to ask the customer if they have time for a short survey, and if agreeable, the CEO can come on next with questions. Whether or not you tell the customer the CEO will be asking the questions is entirely up to you!

“When it comes to your customers, perception is reality, and ultimately your company is nothing more than what your customers say it is.” - J.D. Power

CEO engagement in customer service is good for your customers and for your business. However, it should not take the intervention of the CEO, manager or supervisor to deliver excellent customer service. Customer service agents should be empowered to make the right decisions for their customers and their company. This will make them feel they have more control over their world and consequently more accountability for their actions. Requiring customer service agents to get approval from their supervisor for routine customer requests makes them feel less trusted to make the right decision, less engaged, and less effectual in their mission to deliver a positive customer service experience. How well your customer service team performs has a significant impact on how your customers perceive your brand. Empowering your customer service team to do the right thing will result in happier customers, happier employees, better engagement, greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, resulting in more revenue and profit.

So, if you are a CEO, it sure sounds like spending a day in customer service would yield a good return on an investment of your time. Go ahead. Your customers and your customer service team will be glad you did!

“When it comes to your customers, perception is reality, and ultimately your company is nothing more than what your customers say it is.” - J.D. Power

To learn more about delivering positive customer service experiences, please visit Bass


Patrick Sandefur profile picture

Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.

Read more from Patrick Sandefur by clicking on recent posts below.


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